Available since 16 November 2019, the skilled employer sponsored regional (provisional) visa (subclass 494) provides a framework for regional employers to address labour shortages within their region. If you wish to sponsor an employee under this visa, you will need to meet certain eligibility criteria. This article will outline the process of obtaining this visa and how to know if you are eligible.

Three-Step Process

Applying for the 494 visa is a three-step process, similar to the TSS visa pathway. This process is that:

  1. you must apply to be a Standard Business Sponsor;
  2. once granted, you must apply to nominate a certain occupation under the 494 visa; and
  3. after receiving approval, the individual applicant may then apply for the 494 visa, allowing them to work in that occupation for you.

What Are the Advantages of This Visa?

The first advantage of the subclass 494 visa is that there are more occupations available on the regional occupations list, compared to the non-regional lists. It is therefore likely that if you have a role you are struggling to fill locally, it will be on this list. 

Another advantage is that, once granted, if the sponsored worker is eligible, they may apply for permanent residence after three years. This is in contrast to sponsoring an employee under the TSS scheme, where not all the occupations can lead to permanent residency.

SAF Levy

Under all visa programs, you need to pay the Skilled Australian Fund (SAF) levy upfront each year for the visa. Under the 494 visa, however, you will only need to make this payment one-of, rather than each year.

When applying under other visa programs, you also need to pay it again when the employee transitions into permanent residency. Under the 494 visa, you do not need to do so.

The SAF levy amount depends on the:

  • size of your business; and
  • proposed period of stay of the overseas worker in Australia.
Business Size Temporary Skills Shortage Visa Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme
Small (annual turnover of less than $10 million) AUD$1,200 per year or part thereof AUD$3,000 one-off
Other business (annual turnover of $10 million or more) AUD$1,800 per year or part thereof AUD$5,000 one-off

For example, a business with an annual turnover of more than AUD$10 million per year that wishes to nominate a TSS worker for a period of four years would need to pay a levy of AUD$7,200 (4 years x AUD$1,800).

Duration of Visa

The subclass 494 visa is valid for five years. Here, the sponsored employee needs to accumulate three years on this program before they can transition to the subclass 191 to finish off that five year period. 

Qualifying For the Subclass 494 Visa

1. You Must Qualify as a Sponsor

To sponsor an employee under the subclass 494 visa, you must first qualify as a sponsor. The eligibility criteria are the same as for a Standard Business Sponsor (SBS). This means that if you have already been granted SBS status, you will already qualify to sponsor an employee under visa subclass 494.

Unfortunately, there are no exemptions to labour market testing (LMT) under the subclass 494. LMT is a requirement that you must first attempt to hire from the Australian job market before looking overseas. If you intend to sponsor under this program, you must satisfy LMT requirements. 

2. The Applicant Must Qualify

To be sponsored under the 494 visa, the visa applicant must themselves satisfy eligibility criteria. This means that:

  1. you nominate the applicant;
  2. the applicant has an occupation on a relevant skilled occupation list;
  3. the applicant can demonstrate that they have the skills, qualifications and work experience necessary to perform the nominated occupation by undertaking a mandatory skills assessment;
  4. they are under 45 years of age; and
  5. they meet minimum standards of English language proficiency, to the level of ‘Competent English’.

Other Features of the 494 Visa

The Job Must Be Regional

As the name of this visa implies, the normal place of work for the position must be located in a designated regional area. A “designated regional area” captures any area outside of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Even Adelaide, the Gold Coast and Perth are considered regional areas.

The ‘designated regional area’ is comprised of two categories:

  1. Cities and Major Regional Centres – this includes Perth, Adelaide, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, Canberra, Newcastle/Lake Macquarie, Wollongong/Illawarra, Geelong and Hobart; and
  2. Regional Centres and Other Regional Areas.

The Department of Home Affairs has published a breakdown of postcodes for each state, illustrating which category they fall into.

Visa Holder Must Live in the Regional Area

The worker has to live in this same designated regional area to receive the 494 visa. 

For example, a visa holder sponsored for a role located in Wollongong may not commute there from southern Sydney. They must also live in Wollongong.

The family members of the primary applicant must also live, work and study in the designated regional area.

Apply From Inside or Outside of Australia

Once the sponsorship and nomination steps have been satisfied, the visa applicant can be inside or outside Australia when they apply for the visa.

If applying in Australia, the visa applicant must hold one of the following visas, or their application will not be valid:

Key Takeaways

The 494 visa program is a practical way to attract skilled workers to support the economy in Australia’s regional areas. It is an attractive pathway for you to fill regional positions if you cannot find skilled workers in Australia. Provided you meet the above requirements, this visa presents clear advantages for both you and the individual visa holder. If you have any questions about the subclass 494 visa, contact LegalVision’s corporate immigration lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

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Lindsay Zeloof
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